From the APA Science Student Council
How to Publish
The Science Student Council is a group of nine graduate students who spend a couple of weekends a year with the Science staff, advising on programs and activities that would benefit graduate students in psychological science. In this column, the students will present useful information that other graduate students need to know! Visit the Science Student Council to learn more about the activities of the SSC.
How to Publish
by Marc Berman
Publishing is a major component to the successful pursuit of an academic career as the "publish or perish" mantra rings loudly. Publishing, however, is not all doom and gloom. While publishing articles is a difficult endeavor, there are a number of ways to increase one's likelihood to get articles accepted in peer-reviewed journals.
Find the appropriate journal
One of the most important steps in getting your article published is to submit it to the appropriate journal. While this step seems obvious, it is crucial to spend a bit of time looking at potential journals to find the journal that best fits your article. Knowing the style and the intended audience of a journal and tailoring your article to these attributes will: increase the probability of acceptance, improve the reviews that you will receive, and increase the likelihood that your article will be read and cited.
Take reviews seriously
Rarely do articles get accepted with minor revisions; most reviewers will request authors to make substantial revisions to their original manuscripts. While each of us feels emotionally tied to what we write, it is important to consider all reviewers' comments even if we initially disagree with them. Flatly dismissing a reviewer's comments will not bode well for your re-submission. If you disagree strongly with a reviewer's request, explain why you did not make those changes in the cover letter. Lastly, because reviewing articles is work, reviews can at times be short with a somewhat condescending tone. Do not respond to reviews with the same tone. Instead, respond professionally and thoughtfully. Such professionalism will increase the likelihood of your revision being accepted. Address each and every comment from the reviewers in your cover letter. You might want to intersperse your replies between comments, as this can provide a systematic means to clearly show the reviewer how you have addressed each comment.
Expect rejection without getting discouraged
The rejection rate of many journals is quite high. Therefore, after submission, authors should be prepared to hear bad news. However, such a scenario is not so dire. Even when getting a rejection letter, authors can use the reviews to improve the manuscript further and prepare an even stronger manuscript for another journal. Take comfort in knowing that even the most preeminent researchers get rejected often. It's just part of the business. Remember, even though the rejection rate is high, persistent and patient researchers will typically get their work accepted. In addition, don't sit on your manuscripts. The review process takes a long time, so submit your manuscripts as soon as you can.
Be a reviewer
It's like the old saying goes, "if you can't beat them, join them." Being a reviewer can provide invaluable insight into the review process and provide authors with an inside perspective on some of the dos and don'ts when writing a manuscript. With this insight, authors will be able to anticipate areas of a manuscript that may be problematic and also improve the overall presentation of the article.
Note: As a graduate student you will most likely not be asked to review articles, but your advisor will. If your advisor does not ask you, ask him/her if you could help review one of the articles that they have been asked to review. This usually requires the advisor to clear this with the journal editor, who is usually more than happy to grant this request.
Show Its Place
Showing the importance of your article and how it fits in with the existing literature is a major factor in determining whether reviewers will or will not accept your article. Ask yourself as you are writing whether you have demonstrated clearly what is novel about your manuscript, why it is important, and how it fits in with existing knowledge. Answering these questions is why we write articles, so be sure these points are clearly and concisely expressed.
Working with others
I can't stress enough how beneficial it is when writing an article to work with other researchers who have had success in publishing. Seasoned veterans know many of the nuances that improve the chances of article acceptance. In addition, working with others such as statistical experts can improve aspects of your manuscripts. Such collaborations will also increase the likelihood of other authors recruiting your help on a manuscript based on your expertise.
In summary, while getting your articles published is hard work, taking these steps will improve both your chances of getting your work accepted and improve your attitude/expectations regarding the review process.